Remembering The Day That Was…

April 17th, 2009

Yesterday, Twins fans were treated to one of the most unusual games ever, where they took a 9-4 deficit into the 9th inning, yet tied the game with help from a pair of 2-run homers by Jim Thome and Joe Mauer, then were the beneficiaries of Drew Butera’s pinch-hit home run in the 10th, and eventually took the lead for good in the 11th with an RBI infield single by Delmon Young. This would seem like a rare occurrence of a game, but yesterday brought back memories of one of my favorite Twins games of all time.

On April 17th, 2009, the Twins were playing the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at the Metrodome. Ron Gardenhire decided to shake up the lineup a bit, so he benched Delmon Young and had Jason Kubel make the start in left field. This decision would help make history.

In the 1st inning, Kubel hit a low fastball from Angels starter Dustin Moseley into left-center field for an RBI double, giving the Twins a 1-0 lead. In the 3rd, Kubel was served a curveball right down the middle by Moseley, and he pulled it into right-center for a single. In the 6th, he was swinging away on a 3-0 count and pulled a fastball from Rafael Rodriguez into the right field corner. Kubel was originally content with a double, but when Bobby Abreu first attempted to pick up the ball with his glove, he didn’t reach down far enough and the ball to continue rolling along the warning track. This miscue allowed Kubel to go to 3rd base. Officially, it was scored as a triple, but I still feel that it should have been ruled a double and an error on Abreu.*

* Well, if Kubel hadn’t made history in his final at-bat.

When Kubel hit his triple, the Twins were down 3-2, and they exited the inning with a 3-3 tie thanks to an RBI single by Joe Crede. Here’s where the similarities from yesterday’s game and this game start to fall into place. Nick Blackburn started the 7th inning by allowing a single to center to Chone Figgins, who then quickly stole 2nd base. Howie Kendrick then laid down a sacrifice bunt, moving Figgins to 3rd. By now, Blackburn had 106 pitches, so Gardenhire turned to Jesse Crain. I won’t bother you with the details, but what happened was that Jesse Crain and then Matt Guerrier managed to combine for 2 outs and 5 runs allowed in the inning (1 charged to Blackburn, 4 to Crain). This put the score at 8-3.

The Twins did score a run in the bottom of the 7th, but Guerrier gave it back in the top of the 8th, bringing the score to 9-4. This set the stage for one of the most dramatic innings in my Twins memory. With Jose Arredondo starting the inning, here was what happened:

Michael Cuddyer hits an infield single to shortstop.

Brian Buscher strikes out.

Cuddyer steals 2nd base.

Wild pitch to Joe Crede, Cuddyer to 3rd base.

Joe Crede walks.

Scot Shields replaces Arredondo.

Mike Redmond singles to right, Cuddyer scores, Crede to 2nd base.

Jose Morales pinch-runs for Redmond.

Nick Punto walks, Crede to 3rd base, Morales to 2nd base.

Denard Span doubles to center, Crede, Morales score, Punto to 3rd base.

Jason Bulger replaces Shields.

Brendan Harris strikes out looking.

Justin Morneau was intentionally walked.

Then came the best home run call that I feel Dick Bremer has ever made.

Joe Nathan came in to pitch the 9th inning and shut the door quickly, cementing an improbable 11-9 victory for the Twins. Now, what similarities did I see from these two games?

  1. Both games, the Twins were losing by 8-3 and 9-4 scores.
  2. The Twins took early leads in both games. 3-0 yesterday, 2-0 against the Angels.
  3. Both the Angels and Phillies main jersey color is red. (Impressive similarity, isn’t it?)
  4. An improbable home run late in the game for the Twins. Clearly Kubel’s grand slam, and Butera’s home run in the 10th inning.
  5. In the Angels game, their starting pitcher, Dustin Moseley, left the game early while the Twins starter, Nick Blackburn, made it into the 7th inning. Yesterday, Kevin Slowey left early, and Cole Hamels pitched 7 innings.
  6. Kubel homered on a hanging curveball. Mauer’s game-tying home run (arguably the biggest Twins home run yesterday) came on a hanging slider.
  7. Yesterday, 10 runs were scored in the last 3 innings of the game. Last year’s game, there were 14 runs scored in the last 3 innings of the game.

Even if you think that I’m stretching a bit for some of these similarities, you cannot deny the fact that both games displayed a late 5-run deficit for the Twins, which they overcame in both games. Lastly, I leave you with a graph of the win probability from yesterday’s game (FanGraphs).

So much for that 100% chance of winning during the 8th inning, huh?

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